Coming out later presents challenges

Since Ellen DeGeneres graced the cover of Time Magazine more than a decade ago under the headline “Yep, I’m Gay,” coming out in Hollywood has become an increasingly common — and typically headline-grabbing — phenomenon.

Since Ellen DeGeneres graced the cover of Time Magazine more than a decade ago under the headline “Yep, I’m Gay,” coming out in Hollywood has become an increasingly common — and typically headline-grabbing — phenomenon.

However, the recently televised revelation by Family Ties star Meredith Baxter, 62, that she’s a lesbian has put a well-known face to an emerging demographic in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community — individuals who come out later in life.

Earlier this year, talk show titan Oprah Winfrey devoted both a program on her chatfest and a feature in her magazine to exploring the subject of women leaving men for other women.

One of the guests on the show was comedian Carol Leifer, who came out around 40. While she’s been with her female partner for more than a decade, Leifer had once been married and dated fellow comics Jerry Seinfeld and Paul Reiser.

Baxter, perhaps best-known for her role as matriarch Elyse Keaton in the popular 80s TV series, had been married three times and is the mother of five.

But in an interview with “Today” show host Matt Lauer, she revealed that she had had a “later-in-life recognition” of her sexuality and has been in a relationship with her girlfriend for four years.

“Some people were saying ‘Were you living a lie?’ You know, the truth is, not at all,” Baxter told Lauer, saying she’d only been out for the last seven years.

Baxter said she’d always had a great deal of difficulty connecting with men in relationships, but she was also involved with people who made her think they were the problem.

“It never occurred with me to think, ‘Oh, it’s me.”’

Susan Gabriel commended Baxter for being “courageous” in speaking publicly about it and said she could sympathize with the actress’s feeling of “awakening” because she’s been there.

The North Carolina-based writer and counsellor was in her 30s and married with two young children when she fell in love with her best friend.

“I think it’s a huge decision whatever age you are, but I think the older you are, the more it perhaps feels — although it feels risky at any age to be yourself — to be authentic and kind of know beforehand that that’s going to be judged,” she said.

“It’s a brave thing to take a step like that, and I admired what she was able to do.”

Now in her 50s, Gabriel has been with her female partner for nine years.

But in earlier days, when she was coming to terms with her sexuality, extensive support networks for gays and lesbians simply didn’t exist.

“I was incredibly scared. I felt like I was the only person in the world this was happening to,” she said.

Gabriel wrote and self-published a novel “Seeking Sara Summers,” which is loosely based on her experiences.

“I get a lot of emails from women saying, ‘You’ve written my story’ and they’re very grateful.”

Julie Richards, co-executive director of the Avenue Community Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity in Saskatoon, said it’s not uncommon for individuals to come out late in life. But she believes it’s something that will happen less with kids coming out younger.

In the centre’s youth group, the average age used to be 19; now it’s probably 14 or 15, she said.

“The people who are coming out now, somebody like Meredith Baxter … grew up in a very different time and a different generation, so there was a lot of effort put on hiding or convincing people that they could change,” she said. “All you had to do was get married and have a family.”

“I think that generation is still dealing with those kind of issues whereas I think we’ll see less of it 20, 30 years from now because kids are coming out in high school.”

Access to the Internet and networking sites are helping to decrease the isolation, she said.

“I think we’re still dealing with some of the same issues in rural communities, but at least they still have access sometimes to 1-800 numbers or websites and email and Facebook.”

Stacy Green, president of PFLAG Canada, a national organization to support people with issues around gender identity and sexual orientation, was born in Lethbridge, and raised in rural Alberta. He had been married seven years and had three kids when, at age 27, he came out.

“I knew I was gay from the time I was probably about 10 years of age, but you put that aside and you do what’s expected to you,” he said.

“When I was about 27, thanks to things like the Internet and new forms of media and obviously evolving social attitudes, I decided I had to be who I was.” At the time, his biggest concern was for his wife.

“There’s all this stigma you sort of see in the media where ‘Oh, she turned him gay.”’

“That was a huge concern, making sure she understood it wasn’t her fault, that it was entirely something that was built in from birth.”

On The Net:

Avenue Community Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity:

PFLAG Canada:

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Red Deer College Queens host third annual Pink in the Rink game

The RDC Queens picked up an extra special victory on home ice… Continue reading

PHOTOS: The Mustard Seed CEO speaks at Seeds of Hope Gala in Red Deer

The first-ever Seeds of Hope Gala was held at the Red Deer… Continue reading

PHOTO: Renewable Energy Fair at Red Deer College

The Renewable Energy Fair and Workshops event was held at Red Deer… Continue reading

Person airlifted to hospital after collision near Innisfail

One person was airlifted to hospital after a serious collision west of… Continue reading

WATCH: Make-A-Wish grants Star Wars loving teen’s wish

The Make-A-Wish Foundation granted Anakin Suerink’s wish in Red Deer Saturday afternoon

‘Stupid’ law preventing Canada’s re-engagement with Iran: retired envoy

OTTAWA — The real reason the Liberal government hasn’t been able to… Continue reading

Voters head to polls for BC municipal elections today

VANCOUVER — Voters in British Columbia will head to the polls today… Continue reading

All sharks tagged in N.S. expedition can now be tracked on Ocearch website

HALIFAX — All six of the sharks tagged in Nova Scotian waters… Continue reading

Memorial service for former PQ minister Lise Payette today in Montreal

MONTREAL — Mourners will gather to remember former Parti Quebecois cabinet minister… Continue reading

Immunotherapy scores a first win against some breast cancers

For the first time, one of the new immunotherapy drugs has shown… Continue reading

‘Mom I’m in trouble:’ Canadian, Brit face 10 years in jail for alleged graffiti

GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. — The mother of a Canadian who was arrested… Continue reading

Coyote on the prowl near Penhold

This coyote was out on the prowl in a field just west… Continue reading

Most Read